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VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter August 2018

New family and domestic violence leave entitlements – all you need to know

In recognising the serious and widespread problem of family and domestic violence in Australia, the Fair Work Commission has updated awards to include a new leave entitlement.

Family, domestic and sexual violence are a major welfare issue. Recent statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have shown that violence by an intimate partner causes more illness, disability and deaths than any other risk factor for women aged 25–44.

Nor are men immune, with one man each month being killed by a current or former partner in the two years from 2012–14.

The new clause will allow most employees to take five days of unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence. It’s aimed to empower victims to seek the help they need, without threatening their work situation. It took effect on 1 August 2018.

Employees can use the leave to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence, including things like making arrangements for their own (or a loved one’s) safety and attending court hearings.

Some of the key things you need to know about the leave include:

  • It will apply to all employees, including casuals
  • The full five days will be available to all employees, regardless of whether they work full-time, part-time or casual (in other words, it is not pro rata for part-time or casual employees)
  • It will be available in full at the start of each 12-month period – rather than accruing over a year of service
  • It will not accrue from one year to the next

There are some exceptions to the entitlements, such as enterprise awards. If an employment contract or workplace policy provides less than the minimum entitlement in the applicable award, the award entitlement still applies.

The HR Dept can help you understand the implications of the new leave entitlements for your business and work with you to ensure you comply with implementing them.

For further advice on ensuring victims of family and domestic violence in your workplace can receive their entitlements without unnecessary business disruption, contact The HR Dept today.



Essential tips for a happy and healthy workforce

It’s no secret that mentally healthy workers are more productive. Promoting good mental health is not just a nice thing to do – it’s a smart business decision.

The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance was established in 2013 to encourage – and provide resources for – mentally healthy workplaces.

Their suggestions for managers include:

  • Using online resources to educate your employees about mental health
  • Speak openly about mental health in the workplace and encourage others to do the same
  • Communicate your commitment to privacy and equal opportunity
  • Develop a mental health and wellbeing policy
  • Minimise workplace risks to mental health, such as job stress
  • If you are concerned about an employee, have a conversation with them

Contact The HR Dept for advice on making your business a mentally healthy one.



Manager’s email goes viral (for all the wrong reasons)

Ever dreamed of having your emails to employees go viral? It happened to one Sydney boss, for all the wrong reasons.

The outrageous outburst by Marcus Wood, the director of Mars Recruiting, was reported in The Guardian.

Wood’s email to staff included a rant about under performing staff “getting on my tits” and threatening they would have their “sorry asses fired and slung out the door in under 3 months”.

After confessing he was the author of the self-described “Gordon Ramsay meets Donald Trump-style email rant”, Woods claims to have learned from the experience after the leaked email went viral.

Moral of this story – if you want to avoid making a public apology (or winding up in court), think before you press send.

When staff performance issues get you down, don’t deal with it yourself. Contact The HR Dept for help.



What to do when an employee doesn’t return from holidays?

Everybody looks forward to their annual holiday. So much so that some find it a struggle to return to work and the routine of everyday life afterwards. But if an employee heads off on holiday never to be seen, or heard from again, this could be abandonment of employment at the employee’s initiative.

As an employer, how will you know that an employee has abandoned their employment?

It can be hard to prove as there could be many viable reasons as to why they have not returned to work. Abandonment of employment can usually be concluded when an employee’s actions (or inactions) indicate that they do not wish to return to work.

A lack of communication on the employee’s part can make this a cloudy situation. So you will want to make sure you have followed all the necessary steps before concluding the employee has no intention of ever returning to work.

Before you choose the dismissal route, it’s worth noting that all employees are protected against unfair termination under the Fair Work Act. So, to cover yourself, you’ll want to be sure that you made every effort to clarify the situation before making any risky assumptions.

There are a series of steps that you must follow before concluding abandonment of employment:

  1. Consider the circumstances of the absence, including its length and the reasons surrounding it. Has the employee tried to make contact?
  2. Attempt to make contact with the employee. Try calling or emailing the employee and keep a record of attempted contact.
  3. Send a letter. Explain via letter that the employee is taking unauthorised absence and that an explanation of absence is required. Set a date for the employee to respond or report to work by, otherwise employment abandonment may be accepted.
  4. Repeat the previous steps to show every effort has been made to communicate with the absent employee.
  5. Send a final letter. If no contact has been made by the employee after following the above steps, send a signed for letter which clearly determines that after several attempts to contact the employee, you have accepted they have abandoned their employment.


For advice on what to do if the employee responds, or to check the process against a specific award, call your local expert at The HR Dept.



Is your Fair Work statement up to date?

With updates to the Fair Work Statement every year, keeping on top of yours can be a hassle.

The Statement forms part of the National Employment Standards (NES) and gives employees a clear framework for understanding their employment.

A vital part of the Fair Work Statement is the National Employment Standards. These outline ten mandatory employment standards that must be given to every employee, regardless of their award, contract type or contract length.

WorkPro – an online platform for managing workforce compliance – enables you to deliver the Fair Work Statement as a mandatory online task for your worker to read and accept. It also records their response.

WorkPro also automatically updates the Statement each year, making it a quick and easy way of ensuring compliance.

The HR Dept offers WorkPro so speak to us about how it can streamline the key aspects of your workplace compliance.



More work in less time? Lessons from the four-day week

While most employees dream of working less without sacrificing income, one New Zealand company made this a reality. The company’s founder had the idea for the trial after reading that workplace productivity could be as low as one-and-a-half hours per day.

The results were surprising. Not only was job performance maintained (even increased) over four days, stress was reduced by 7% and work/life balance improved by 24%. Job engagement and satisfaction also increased.

The four-day week may not be for everyone but offering flexible work arrangements can be a great start towards achieving the same outcomes.



VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter July 2018

Why SMEs should act on workplace sexual harassment

Celebrity sexual harassment allegations in the entertainment industry have dominated the news since October 2017 and triggered an unprecedented global reaction. The worldwide #metoo movement has evolved as women, in particular, feel empowered to speak out on social media about their experiences of workplace sexual harassment.

Now attention will be on Australia as the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has announced a ‘world first’ enquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace. Kate Jenkins, the sex discrimination commissioner, will lead the enquiry. In comments to the ABC she said:

“The timing was right, the appetite for change is there and we have all the functions to make sure we can help Australia lead the globe in finding new solutions for sexual harassment.”

The enquiry will explore the reasons behind the growing number of incidents of workplace sexual harassment. It will investigate what businesses are doing to address them and the impact of existing Australian laws. Special attention will be given to women who are affected financially when workplace sexual harassment causes them to change employers or miss out on promotion.

The Federal Government supports the 12-month AHRC enquiry and is funding half the estimated $1m cost.

Every Australian will have the chance to lodge a submission with the enquiry and public consultations will be held in major cities as well as regional centres. Workplace sexual harassment policies and procedures used by businesses around the country will be under scrutiny, as well as the outcomes of complaints.

The HR Dept can help you understand workplace sexual harassment laws and review your policies and procedures, so your employees and your business are protected. Read on for some top tips on stamping out sexual harassment in the workplace.

– Set the tone. Make it undeniably clear to all of your employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely.
– Lead by example. Ensure your company culture is inclusive and fair to all.
– Communicate. Provide training with clear instructions on behavioural expectations and how to report harassment.

For further advice on how to address sexual harassment in your workplace contact your local HR Dept professional today.



July 2018 brings minimum wage increases

With the new financial year underway, have you updated your payroll to comply with the increase in the national minimum wage?

At the beginning of June, Fair Work Commission (FWC) President, Justice Iain Ross announced the following changes to the minimum wage, effective from 1 July 2018:

  • 3.5% increase
  • New hourly rate – $18.93 per hour
  • New weekly rate – $719.20 for a 38-hour week
  • Weekly increase – $24.30 per week

The weekly increase was nearly double the Australian Industry Group’s preferred amount of $12.50. But the figure fell well short of the $50 per week sought by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

Union secretary, Sally McManus, conceded the rise was “a step in the right direction” but felt it didn’t go far enough.
Justice Ross said the commission had delivered an increase in real wages for minimum wage employees, without adversely affecting employment or putting pressure on inflation. Workplace Minister Craig Laundy agreed, describing the FWC’s decision as “carefully considered and balanced”.

The HR Dept recognises the financial impact that this will have on small businesses and can advise on ways to staff your business in the most effective and cost-efficient way whilst not getting the wage rates wrong and falling foul of the Fair Work Ombudsman. Not only could you face huge wage back payment bills you could face hefty fines and small businesses are not excused or out of the line of fire from the FWO!

If you have employees who are receiving the minimum wage, you must make sure you implement the new hourly or weekly rates.



Robots find a new way to take your job

Imagine discovering a robot had terminated one of your staff and you were helpless to intervene. If this sounds like a scene from a sci-fi action movie – it’s not. This actually occurred recently at a company in California.

Software developer, Ibrahim Diallo was mistakenly sacked by a seemingly malicious robot that gradually shut him out of every online system at his workplace.

So, while the management team wanted him to keep working, it became impossible. Even the company director was unable to roll back or override the system.

An investigation eventually revealed the glitch was caused by an ex-employee who had failed to update Ibrahim’s details prior to a system upgrade.

Ultimately, human error was to blame. But, if you want to stop the robots from running riot in your workplace, make sure any automated HR systems are reversible



Changes to Disability Employment Services have arrived

Have you created a workplace that supports employees living with disabilities? Did you know Disability Employment Services (DES) help Australians with a disability prepare for work and find a job? They can also assist employers with implementing practices that improve workplace conditions.

Now, after consulting with people living with disability, disability peak organisations, disability service providers and employers, the DES program is changing. From July 2018, DES participants have more choice about the services they use and how they’re delivered.

The changes will help people living with disability, injury or a health condition get work and stay employed. They include:

  • Improving participant choice and control
  • Engendering competition and contestability in service delivery
  • Improving incentives for providers to place job seekers in employment
  • Introducing indexation of provider payments and
  • A trial of expanded DES eligibility for students in the last year of school

Contact us if you are seeking advice regarding support for a disabled employee.



How to win over employees with workplace wellness

It’s not a cliché! Your employees genuinely are your most valuable asset. But looking after their wellbeing at work by introducing wellness benefits delivers a win for you, and them. It’s no wonder wellness benefits are becoming increasingly more common in Australian workplaces.

In the US, wellness benefits are more frequently offered as a means to improve employee recruitment and encourage retention. But there are many other advantages to keeping your staff healthy and happy at work, such as:

  • Productivity increases
  • Less work-related ill-health and fewer injuries
  • Reduced workers compensation costs
  • Less absenteeism and staff turnover
  • Employee relations improvements
  • Healthier workplace environments
  • Developing your reputation as an employer of choice

Would you like to boost the wellbeing of your team and increase workplace productivity? Ask us how we can help you introduce wellness benefits for your employees.



Avoid an expensive case of mistaken identity

Did you know that mistaking an employee for a contractor can cost you up to $63,000 per person in fines? And that’s just with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). The Australian Tax Office (ATO) can bring other penalties for unpaid tax and/or superannuation.

Many businesses may never recover from such high fines!

The problem is, it can seem difficult to know who is a genuine contractor and who isn’t.

If you feel unsure, we can help. Contact your local HR Dept professional today for advice.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter June 2018


Culture is king – how to win millennial loyalty

It’s official. The days when jobs were for life are long gone. But it’s not employers driving this change in attitude. The modern millennial workforce is proving increasingly hard to retain.

Results from the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey of over 10,000 millennials, across 36 countries, revealed millennials are feeling disillusioned with self-serving businesses.

In Australia, monetary rewards are important but they aren’t the top priority for millennial job seekers. The survey indicated their most highly-rated job considerations were:

  • Work environment
  • Financial rewards/benefits
  • Flexibility

Millennials – anyone born between 1983 and 1994 – will soon make up the majority of our Australian workforce. Their concerns are not only relevant but also an indication of what employers must do to attract and retain them.

The cost and disruption of high staff turnover have a bigger impact on small to medium enterprises as they have fewer employees and smaller budgets.

Almost half (44%) of millennials surveyed anticipated changing their employer in under two years, with only 22% considering tenure of over 5 years.

According to Deloitte Australia’s chief operating officer, David Hill:

While pay and culture attract this cohort to employers, it’s diversity, inclusion and flexibility that keep them there… Those working for employers perceived to have diverse workforces and senior management teams are more likely to want to stay five or more years.”

Millennials are also aware of what’s sometimes referred to as Industry 4.0 – more digital technologies including Artificial Intelligence introduced to the workplace. They feel employers should provide training opportunities, particularly in more human-centric soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity or innovation.

So how can you make your workplace more appealing to millennials so they want to work for you, and more importantly, are happy to stay?

  • Build a diverse workplace and a culture that offers meaning beyond financial gain
  • Offer attractive financial rewards
  • Include flexibility in your work practices
  • Provide more professional development opportunities

The HR Dept can help you with these and other initiatives to grow a loyal millennial workforce. Call us on 1800 473 378 or email



Process fail delivers unfair dismissal win

When is a resignation not a resignation? It sounds like a trick question, but for the Fair Work Commission (FWC), the answer is very simple.

In March 2018, a nail technician working at a Melbourne beauty salon lodged an unfair dismissal claim, despite having resigned from her job. The FWC found in her favour and the business was ordered to pay over $20,000 in wages and superannuation.

So, how did a resignation lead to a successful unfair dismissal claim? Two hours after receiving her resignation, the business fired the employee via email, stating she’d altered a medical certificate, giving them grounds to terminate her. Fair Work Commissioner Michelle Bissett ruled this email invalidated the resignation and opened the door to an unfair dismissal claim.

At the hearing, the FWC accepted the technician resigned because she felt bullied by her employer after making enquiries about her wages. There was evidence she had previously contacted the ATO and the Fair Work Ombudsman about pay and superannuation she believed she was owed.

The employer offered little proof the technician had backdated her medical certificate and the dismissal was found to be harsh and unjust.

If you want to avoid a similar situation in your business, it’s important to remember you can accept a resignation but still reject the reasons given. However, you should avoid countering a resignation with a dismissal.

For help with termination questions contact The HR Dept.

We can develop thorough processes to ensure your employee-related activities – from performance management to suspicions of fraudulent behaviour – are always documented.



Should candidates keep mum about their pregnancy?

For women, when it comes to revealing pregnancy or even marital status, it can feel like the recruitment playing field is far from even. Credit report specialists, Credit Angel, recently revealed that around one in three female job applicants don’t wear wedding rings when attending job interviews.

And a woman on a parenting website ignited debate when she asked forum members whether she should reveal her pregnancy during a job interview. She was concerned she might not be offered the job if her potential employer knew she was seven months pregnant. Responses were split between people urging her to be honest, while others believed the employer would discriminate.

Despite the concerns, Australian employment law is clear – neither an applicant nor an employee can be discriminated against because of their gender.

For employers, negotiating employment law and ensuring you’re protected against discrimination claims can be tricky. To be sure, contact The HR Dept today.



Is your business affected by Single Touch Payroll?

From July 2018, Single Touch Payroll (STP) will be mandatory for ‘substantial employers’ (defined as businesses that employ 20 or more people).

New processes can bring new challenges, so how should you prepare for STP? Here are 7 tips:

  • Establish whether you’re a substantial employer. (No need to submit your headcount to the ATO.)
  • Speak to The HR Dept and/or your payroll software provider about STP help and reporting.
  • Subscribe to ATO updates about STP and make sure your contact details are current.
  • Review your payroll processes, to ensure payroll staff understand and are prepared for STP implementation from 1 July.
  • If you won’t be ready in time for rollout, contact the ATO and ask for an extension.
  • Once your software and systems are set up, begin reporting to the ATO.
  • If you encounter problems, get in touch with The HR Dept who will be able to help.



Strategy essentials for remote working success

Has your business embraced the idea of employees working remotely? In recent years, working from home has become a well-established practice in many companies. A study by revealed working remotely has grown by 115% since 2005.

There are some challenges such as isolation and accountability. But remote working also delivers benefits for businesses and employees alike, from improved productivity to cost savings, greater job satisfaction and healthier employees.

Founder and CEO of, Sara Sutton Fell acknowledges that the success or failure of remote work depends on how it’s executed.

“There are critical strategies and management techniques necessary to make remote work a success, whether it’s applied to one worker, a team, or an entire business.”

Are you interested in developing a remote work policy for your workplace? Avoid the challenges – speak to us.



Embracing sport to build winning workplace teams

Australia has a worldwide reputation as a sports-mad nation. From Test cricket to football – sport consistently outranks other entertainment in the TV ratings and around the water cooler.

When major events like this year’s football World Cup draw near, it’s an excellent opportunity to boost employee engagement.

Start by injecting some fun into your workplace:

  • Install a TV in the breakout room
  • Organise a World Cup sweepstakes
  • Hold a ‘wear your team shirt’ day

Introduce some flexible work options. You’ll reduce the likelihood of employees arriving bleary-eyed and distracted and you’ll demonstrate your commitment to work-life balance.


VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter May 2018


Act now – the Real Estate Award has changed!

On 2 April, the Real Estate Award changed so if you operate a real estate agency, you need to act quickly to ensure compliance.

Here’s an overview of the main changes but for a detailed breakdown, visit Changes to the Real Estate Award.

 Employment classifications and weekly wages

Four new classifications have been introduced as follows:

  • a new Real Estate Employee Level 1 (Associate Level)
  • a new Real Estate Employee Level 2 (Representative Level)
  • a new Real Estate Employee Level 3 (Supervisory Level)
  • a new Real Estate Employee Level 4 (In-charge Level)

Commission only employment

Minimum employment conditions for commission only employees have changed. To be eligible, employees:

  • Need to be a Real Estate Employee Level 2 or above.
  • Need to have worked in property sales or commercial, industrial or retail leasing as a Real Estate Employee Level 2 or as a licensed real estate agent for at least 12 consecutive months over the previous 3 years.
  • Who are engaged after 2 April 2018, need to meet the new minimum income threshold amount rules.
  • Who are already engaged before 2 April 2018, can continue their commission only arrangement as long as their arrangement is reviewed each year and meets the new minimum income threshold amount rules.

Payments on termination of employment

 Employees may be entitled to a portion of these payments where employment ends:

  • Because of their serious misconduct, if there was an enforceable property sale or lease contract in place before the date the employment ends.
  • For any other reason, if there was an enforceable property sale or lease contract in place before the end of the exclusive agency period.

Annual leave for commission only employees

Commission only employees are still not paid annual leave loading. However, the award now confirms annual leave should be paid at the employee’s base pay rate for their classification at the time of taking leave.

The HR Dept can help you manage Awards in your workplace. Call us on 1800 473 378 or email


Racial bias in recruitment – are you guilty?

Badly written job ads are a waste of everyone’s time and money. The employer doesn’t attract the right applicants for the role, and the applicants spend time applying for jobs they won’t get.

Last month, a job ad posted by Optus attracted a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. The ad, which stated a preference for ‘Anglo Saxon’ applicants, was not just badly written; it was offensive and discriminatory. It was removed within 24 hours but had already been shared, discussed and criticised widely on social media.

Optus was forced into damage control and publicly stated their commitment to equal opportunity employment and diversity. Optus’s vice-president of human resources, Vaughan Paul released an apology stating:

This error is completely unacceptable and a clear breach of our advertising standards and commitment to equal opportunity employment.”

Whether the appalling word choice was caused by error, poor judgement or a combination of the two, it revealed a failing in Optus’s internal processes. After all, why was the ad posted without being reviewed first?

The public outcry was a clear indication that there’s no place for racial bias in Australian recruitment culture. Employment law reflects this attitude, so Optus could face more than just reputational damage.

The Fair Work Act 2009 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against an employee or prospective employee on the basis of race. A corporation faces a maximum penalty of $63,000 for a single contravention of unlawful discrimination protections. For individuals, the penalty is $12,600.

To ensure your job ads meet legal requirements and attract quality candidates, seek professional help to write them.


Don’t let zombie contracts come back to bite you!

Are your employment contracts, or lack of them, a ticking time bomb for your business?

Recently, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCCA) ruled a casual plant operator, working for an earthmoving business for 15 years, was actually a permanent employee.

The court ordered the employer to pay the operator for untaken annual leave accrued over the 15 years.

The employer argued the worker was paid a casual loading. However, there was no contract in place to support this position.

Another area of risk for employers is “zombie” contracts. These are contracts put in place during the Work Choices-era that, in some cases, haven’t been updated. This situation is allowed if both the employee and employer have agreed the contract can continue.

However, new employees should not be engaged using “zombie” contracts as many include work conditions that aren’t aligned with modern awards.

Contact us if you’d like help reviewing or updating your contracts.


Costly cybercrime committed by bored employee

Most businesses today are at risk from Cybercrime. Attacks usually involve data being held to ransom by anonymous entities. But sometimes the perpetrator can be closer to home.

When Tek4’s managing director received emails threatening to delete critical company data unless a ransom was paid, he called the police. They traced the crime to a trusted employee who claimed he acted out of boredom.

The ransom wasn’t paid, but it’s estimated the attack cost the company and its insurers over £1.5 million in fees, lost turnover and profit.

It’s good practice to safeguard all your sensitive data!


Nearly 50% of staff shop online during working hours

Most employees would never slip out to the shops during working hours. But many view online shopping differently.

When surveyed 2085 employees, they discovered nearly 50% had shopped online at work. The results show some states have a bigger problem than others:

  • 70% in New South Wales and Western Australia
  • 67% in Victoria
  • 64% in Queensland and South Australia

While employees do work and respond to emails outside business hours, Finder found the annual estimated cost of lost productivity from online shopping is around $31 billion.

So, if you want to reduce costs and deter staff from sneaking off to their favourite shopping platform:

  • Develop a clear policy for online activities and ensure all employees have seen, understood and agreed to it.
  • Build a workplace culture where employees feel valued and engaged so they’re less likely to drift off to an online store.


Adaptability more beneficial than cultural fit

If you want employees who’ll bring long-term benefits to your workplace, look for applicants who’ve travelled or lived overseas or been exposed to different work environments.

It sounds counter-intuitive but Amir Goldberg, associate professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business, says adaptability is more important than instant cultural fit.

According to Goldberg, recent research used linguistic analysis of internal emails sent within a tech company over five years. The results suggest candidates who are able to adapt to your culture are a better choice.

“We find that what predicts who will stay, who will leave, and who will be fired is not so much initial level of cultural fit as much as their trajectory, the degree to which they adapt.”

If you’d like help recruiting the right staff, speak to us today.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter April 2018

Should employees have the right to choose their working hours?

Could your workplace function efficiently if your employees dictated the hours they were available to work each month? Employer groups say ‘no’! But the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) disagrees.

The ACTU has been campaigning to change the Fair Work Act to give employees the right to access flexible, family-friendly hours. Last year, the union brought their Family-Friendly Work Arrangements Case to the Fair Work Commission.

Not surprisingly, peak employer organisation, The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) opposed the change and took the lead in representing Australian employers against the ACTU’s case.

On this occasion, the full bench of the FWC agreed with employer groups that the move would be detrimental to business operations and ruled against the ACTU’s case.

Innes Willox, chief executive of Ai Group, reacted to the ruling by stating:

‘If the ACTU’s claims had been accepted, all awards would have been varied to give employees the right to dictate to their employer what hours and days they work, with the employer having no right to refuse, regardless of the circumstances’.

In her response to the outcome, ACTU secretary Sally McManus claimed:

‘The proposed changes were a common-sense solution to the situation that so many workers find themselves in, sandwiched between caring responsibilities and work.’

Ms McManus also highlighted that the ruling would have a greater impact on women, who bear the brunt of carer responsibilities. She accused the Commission of choosing to ‘maintain a broken system which leaves women with nowhere to turn’.

“It goes against the culture I thought the tax office was trying to develop – of staff working together to help administer the tax system”.

The ACTU believes the current law that gives workers the right to request family-friendly work arrangements doesn’t go far enough. They want employees to be able to appeal their employer’s decision if their request is refused.

Interestingly, despite the FWC’s rejection of the ACTU’s case, it did not dismiss the issue of flexible hours. Instead, it encouraged employers and employees to keep discussions open and find solutions that are mutually beneficial.

The price of policing work-life balance

If some of your staff consistently work additional hours, it might be a cause for concern rather than celebration.

After all, what can appear as dedication to the job might, in reality, be a sign that they’re struggling to manage their workload. How do you know when to intervene and insist on some work-life balance?

In France, a baker has fallen foul of local employment laws aimed at enforcing healthy work practices. Cédric Vaivre, who owns Boulangerie du Lacin in Lusigny-sur-Barse, has been opening seven days a week when the law restricts him to six. 

Cédric refused to comply, so he was hit with a €3,000 fine. But his community supports his determination to fight the rule, as they believe he has valid reasons for staying open.

When you’re dealing with employees who regularly work long days, whatever the reason, it’s essential to encourage healthy levels of work-life balance as a long-term strategy.

Backup social media policies with employee education

As social media platforms become more integrated into the workplace, it’s essential to proceed carefully when investigating potential breaches of your social media policy.

In the unfair dismissal claim between Clint Remmert and Broken Hill Operations Pty Ltd T/A Rasp Mine, the commissioner ruled there were grounds for dismissal. But, poor HR procedures resulted in the employer having to pay Mr Remmert $28,000 in compensation.

The Fair Work Commission found that Mr Remmert contravened the company’s detailed social media policy by participating in a Facebook discussion outside work, belittling another employee.

However, it also found he had never been adequately trained or consulted on the policy content. Consequently, the company was ordered to pay him compensation.

So, a comprehensive social media policy is not enough without a robust process for sharing it with your staff.

Modern awards to include domestic violence leave

If you employ staff under a modern award, it’s a good idea to start preparing your business for the introduction of domestic violence leave.

Last month, while conducting its 4-yearly award review, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled to include five days unpaid domestic violence leave in all modern awards.

This is more than the 2-3 days suggested by employer groups but much less than the incident-based, uncapped option the ACTU supported.

While the introduction of domestic violence leave will bring relief to many, it will mean workplaces affected will need to alter their leave entitlement processes.

If you’d like to get your business organised before the changes to legislation are finalised, here are some questions to consider:

  • How will you incorporate domestic violence leave into your existing leave policies and processes?
  • When and how will you share details of the entitlement with your staff?
  • Should you organise training for personnel who may be required to handle requests for leave from employees experiencing incidents of domestic violence?
  • What sort of evidence will you require to support a request for unpaid domestic violence leave? The FWC suggests evidence that “would satisfy a reasonable person” such as documents issued by police, medical staff and/or courts.
  • How will you ensure privacy and store this confidential evidence?

Initially, domestic violence leave will be available to all permanent and casual modern award workers. But, the Federal government is working on amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 to make domestic violence leave available to all national system employees.

Need help understanding or implementing the new domestic violence leave entitlements? Contact The HR Dept.

How much reference checking is enough?

How deep should you dig when checking a reference for a potential new hire? An employee of Linfox thought recruiters should have questioned a negative reference, so he took the matter to the Fair Work Commission.

Initially, he claimed his application for an internal vacancy was unfairly treated because Linfox had a policy of preferring internal candidates but filled the role externally. The Commission ruled Linfox had acted fairly because the external applicants had better references.

The employee appealed this decision as he claimed he’d received a reference that wrongly attributed several negative incidents to him.

The Commission again ruled that Linfox’s process was fair, as it’s not normal recruitment practice to investigate the legitimacy of references. Recruiters make final decisions based on the references received.

If you’d like help with reference checks or managing your complete recruitment process, speak to us today.

Unpaid intern or employee? Get it wrong at your cost

If you want to avoid attention from the Fair Work Ombudsman, or damage to your reputation, you should exercise diligence when offering unpaid internships.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, an unpaid internship must be a vocational placement, which it defines as, ‘a formal work experience arrangement that is part of an education or training course.’

Even when this stipulation is met, the intern can be deemed an employee if you’re not clear about the conditions that apply.

Don’t risk prosecution, financial liabilities or reputational harm. Contact us for some expert help setting up your unpaid internship contracts.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter March 2018

Does dobbing on your colleagues damage workplace culture?

How do you manage employee lunch breaks? Would you feel comfortable asking team members to report a colleague who comes back late?

Encouraging your employees to ‘dob’ on each other doesn’t sound like a strategy that would build workplace harmony. And yet, it’s been widely reported in the media that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is doing just that.

According to the ABC, in December 2017 the ATO issued a memo to employees asking them to report colleagues who waste time or fail to record time off properly.

The memo gave examples of scenarios that might need reporting and subsequent monitoring.

“A colleague makes a habit of taking long lunches; or regularly leaves early; or spends the first hour at work eating breakfast and reading the paper… or all of the above…”

Like many government agencies, the ATO is always focused on improving workplace productivity. The ATO claimed the memo was merely meant to urge public sector workers to talk to their managers about any issues that arise in their workplace.

It’s probably true that a colleague who appears to take advantage of flexi time or is consistently late back from breaks can cause resentment within a team. But is introducing a system that encourages workers to report on each other’s activities the best way to address the issue?

Could asking employees to report these small incidences create a culture of mistrust that makes teamwork impossible and harms productivity?

Jeff Lapidos of the Australia Services Union certainly thinks so. When asked about the ATO’s memo, he told the ABC,

“It goes against the culture I thought the tax office was trying to develop – of staff working together to help administer the tax system”.

Every workplace needs a fair system to manage breaks as they affect everyone. If you want to avoid service gaps, why not draw up a lunch break roster – then stick to it.

Alternatively, talk to the HR Dept about time management systems that will keep you and your staff happy. Call us on 1800 473 378 or email

Don’t be caught out by 457 Visa changes

The abolition of the 457 visa program will impact workforce planning in businesses around Australia. Do you understand what it means for your workplace?

From 1 March, the 457 visa has been abolished. Its replacement, the new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa, has been introduced by the Australian Government through the Department of Homeland Affairs.

The changes have been brought about to ensure that temporary overseas workers aren’t creating a disadvantage for Australians seeking employment. According to the Department of Homeland Affairs:

“This new visa is part of the Government’s significant reform package to strengthen the integrity and quality of Australia’s temporary and permanent employer sponsored skilled migration programs.”

If you currently employ overseas workers using 457 visas, new applications will no longer be processed but existing 457 visas will continue to remain in effect.

The new TSS visa offers employers three options categorised as follows:

  • Short-term stream to source genuine temporary overseas skilled workers for up to two years
  • Medium-term stream to source highly skilled overseas workers for up to four years
  • Labour-agreement stream to source overseas skilled workers in accordance with a labour agreement with the Commonwealth

Each category has conditions attached ­– detailed information is available from the Department of Homeland Affairs

The TSS visa includes more rigorous requirements than the previous 457 program.

One such requirement is for visa applicants to have at least two years’ work experience in their skilled occupation. Employers will also need to pass a new non-discriminatory workforce test to ensure they are not actively discriminating against Australian workers.

Higher penalties for businesses with poor record keeping

Would your business records stand up to close inspection? The Fair Work Ombudsman’s recent investigation of the Caltex service network uncovered record keeping and pay slip breaches by some franchisees.

Whether intentional or not, the cost of failing to maintain proper workplace records is going up. Following the introduction of the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017, fines have increased.

The maximum penalties that can be imposed on employers who fail to keep proper records have doubled to:

  • $63,000 for companies
  • $12,600 for individuals

Repeated instances of underpayment and other ‘serious contraventions’ of the Fair Work Act also attract significantly higher penalties of up to:

  • $630,000 for companies
  • $126,000 for individuals

To avoid hefty non-compliance penalties:

  • Regularly review your payroll and record keeping practices
  • Ensure workers are being paid correctly
  • Retain required employment records for a period of seven years

Should new pet owners have the same leave rights as new parents?

Is welcoming a new pet into your home on a par with bringing home a new baby? Some animal lovers believe it is and they want the same considerations as new parents.

Sydney-sider Monique Gibbons is one of a growing number of Australians taking leave while she settles her puppy into her home. She doesn’t have children but she feels the act of becoming a new pet owner is just as significant.

“My dog will be like a surrogate child for me so I don’t see why I shouldn’t treat the dog’s arrival as if it were my own baby.”

Although some employers in the UK have introduced pet leave under certain circumstances, this type of leave doesn’t exist in Australia … yet!

Family-friendly policies are a must in the modern age. But for now, the best advice for animal lovers who want to spend time with their pets is to take annual leave.

Don’t let a data breach catch you by surprise

Have you considered the impact a data breach could have on your business?

First of all, you run the risk of losing the hard-won trust of your customers which could lead to the loss of their custom. This is why, when breaches occur, companies (think Uber) sometimes try to keep it from their clients.

In Australia, from 22 February 2018, this ceased to be a legal option for businesses subject to new mandatory data breach notification legislation.

If your organisation is affected by these reforms, you must report data breaches in circumstances where serious harm could occur to an individual whose data has been compromised. Otherwise, your business could face financial penalties of up to $1.8 million.

So, don’t wait for a breach to happen – manage your risk and response with clear data security policies.

Simplify managing staff leave

Are other people’s holiday plans a source of stress for you?

The range of climates in Australia means we can find a spot for a getaway all year round. But weather is only one consideration. School holidays and annual celebrations such as Christmas can mean most staff members want time off around the same dates.

It can be tricky keeping track of holiday applications and ensuring your customers don’t experience a drop in service.

Simple software like PeopleHub can make it easy to see who’s away or identify service gaps. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more.